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Eur J Psychol Educ

DOI 10.1007/s10212-015-0250-0

Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations

with students’ engagement, classroom discipline
and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship

Gerda Hagenauer & Tina Hascher & Simone E. Volet

Received: 29 September 2014 / Revised: 23 February 2015 / Accepted: 2 March 2015

# Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science+Business Media
Dordrecht 2015

Abstract The present study explores teacher emotions, in particular how they are predicted by
students’ behaviour and the interpersonal aspect of the teacher-student relationship (TSR). One
hundred thirty-two secondary teachers participated in a quantitative study relying on self-report
questionnaire data. Based on the model of teacher emotions by Frenzel (2014), teachers rated their
experienced joy, anger and anxiety during classroom instruction (dependent variable). Students’
motivational behaviour (= engagement), socio-emotional behaviour (= discipline in class) and
relational behaviour (= closeness; interpersonal TSR) were assessed as the independent variables.
Teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs served as a control variable. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed
that the interpersonal relationship formed between teachers and students was the strongest predictor
for teachers’ joy (positive relation) and anxiety (negative relation), whereas lack of discipline in class
best predicted teachers’ anger experiences. Students’ engagement also proved a significant predictor
of teacher emotions. The results suggest that interpersonal TSR plays a particularly important role in
teachers’ emotional experiences in class.

. . .
Keywords Teacher emotion Teacher-student relationship Classroom management
Teacher wellbeing


Emotions in education have been recognized as significant antecedents of students’ learning

and achievement (Glaeser-Zikuda et al. 2013; Hascher 2010; Järvelä 2011; Newberry et al.

G. Hagenauer (*) T. Hascher
Institute of Educational Science, Department of Research on School, Learning and
Instruction, University of Bern, Fabrikstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland e-mail:
T. Hascher
e-mail: tina.hascher@edu.unibe.ch

S. E. Volet
School of Education, Murdoch University, South Street 90, Murdoch, Perth,
Australia e-mail: s.volet@murdoch.edu.au
G. Hagenauer et al.

2013; Pekrun and Linnenbrink-Garcia 2014; Schutz and Pekrun 2007). Although the topic
is attracting increasing interest in educational research (e.g. Schutz and Zembylas 2011),
the empirical evidence on teacher emotions is not extensive (Frenzel 2014). Studies on
teacher emotions suggest that teaching is an emotional endeavour (Hargreaves 1998,
2000), and that teachers’ emotions correlate with their wellbeing and the quality of their
teaching (Brackett et al. 2013; Day and Gu 2011; Frenzel 2014; Frenzel et al. 2011). The
same has been shown in the higher education context: Trigwell (2012) and Postareff and
Lindblom-Ylänne (2011) found a link between teachers’ positive emotions and student-
centred approaches to teaching. Thus, the identification of factors influencing teacher
emotions at school can make a signif-icant contribution towards determining how to
support teachers’ wellbeing and teaching quality.
The present study explores the antecedents of teacher emotions, focusing on student
behaviour in the classroom and the interpersonal relationship that is formed between
teachers and students. Previous studies have shown that students’ behaviour in the context
of teacher-student interactions can be crucial to teacher emotions (e.g. Frenzel et al. 2011),
yet the impact of the interpersonal teacher-student relationship (TSR) and its significance
for teachers and their emotions has to date been largely neglected in research (Klassen et
al. 2012; Spilt et al. 2011). Consequently, the present study contributes to the research
strands on teacher emotions and TSR in the classroom by simultaneously investigating the
predictive power of students’ behaviour and the quality of TSR on teacher emotions.

A conceptual model of teacher emotions

The conceptual framework for the present study is underpinned by Frenzel’s model of teacher
emotions (2014), which defines emotions from an appraisal theoretical perspective (Ellsworth
and Scherer 2003; Scherer 2004). Frenzel’s appraisal model implies that the emotional response
of an actor depends on his or her evaluation of the situation. Classroom goals and their
attainment or non-attainment appear to be particularly significant in the appraisal process.
Frenzel (2014) and Frenzel et al. (2011) argued that teachers follow different teaching goals,
observe the behaviour of students related to their goals and then appraise this behaviour (e.g. in
terms of goal attainment), which contributes to their respective emotions. For example, if a
teacher judges a situation as goal congruent (i.e. students are motivationally engaged; see also
the research on teacher motivation by Mansfield and Beltman 2014) and manageable (sec-
ondary appraisal; Lazarus 1999), it is likely that positive emotions would be experienced (e.g.
satisfaction or joy; Schutz et al. 2011).
Control-value theory (Pekrun 2006), or transactional stress theory (Lazarus 1999),
posits that, in terms of the perception of manageability of a situation, the self-efficacy
beliefs of teachers play an important role. Self-efficacy beliefs “refer to individuals’ beliefs
about their capabilities to successfully carry out a particular course of action ” (Klassen et
al. 2009, p. 67). Previous studies have shown that teachers’ self-efficacy is related to
affective variables, for example, teachers’ emotional exhaustion (Skaalvik and Skaalvik
2010) or job satisfaction (Klassen and Chiu 2010; Vieluf et al. 2013).
According to the model of Frenzel (2014), four main teaching goals and the respective
student behaviour are identified: (1) achievement behaviour, (2) motivation-al behaviour,
(3) social-emotional behaviour and (4) relational behaviour. The model was introduced by
Frenzel and colleagues in 2011 and comprised the first three modes of goal-relevant
student behaviour. It was extended by Frenzel in 2014 by the addition of a fourth
dimension of the relational aspect, which incorporates recent research
Teacher emotions

findings that have addressed more explicitly the social dimension of teacher motiva-tion
(e.g. Butler 2012).
The concept of interpersonal TSR introduced in this study is similar to what has been
defined by Frenzel (2014) as relational behaviour. However, in the present study, the term
“interpersonal TSR” extends Frenzel’s relational behaviour in order to capture the way in
which interpersonal relationships, i.e. the affective bond built between students and
teachers, go beyond observable student behaviour. Whilst observable relational behaviour
of students (e.g. friendly smiles to a teacher) contributes to the formation of TSR,
interpersonal TSR is a product of the interaction of teacher and student behaviour over
time (Spilt et al. 2011).

Teacher emotions in the classroom and student classroom behaviour

Teachers experience a range of emotions during their work (Frenzel 2014; Keller et al.
2014), which are triggered by multiple factors and their interplay (Schutz 2014). Teacher
emotions typically unfold in interaction with their environment (Day and Gu 2014).
Teachers interact with different people in their work (e.g. colleagues, parents), but
interactions with their students seem to be the most powerful in terms of evoking positive
or negative emotions, as (mostly qualitative) empirical studies have shown (e.g. Sutton
and Wheatley 2003). For example, teachers in the study of O’Connor (2006) described
their “big moments” (p. 125) in terms of emotionality in teaching resulting from
interaction sequences with students. This finding was confirmed in several other studies
(Demetriou et al. 2009; Galant 2013; Hargreaves 1998, 2000; Oplatka 2007; Sutton 2007;
Williams-Johnson et al. 2008; Zembylas 2002).
Research has shown that primary and secondary teachers’ emotions are strongly
connected to positive interactions with their students (e.g. a breakthrough of a learner,
showing appreciation of the teachers’ work), evoking responses such as joy and satisfac-
tion (Hargreaves 2000). Conversely, in terms of negative emotions, a recent study by
Chang (2013) showed that negative emotions of teachers (e.g. anger and frustration) were
frequently related to students’ misbehaviour or lack of classroom discipline, which
increased the risk for burnout over time (Tsouloupas et al. 2010). Classroom discipline
problems have also been found to be one of the main predictors of teacher stress (Abel and
Sewell 1999; McCarthy et al. 2015) and also impede on teacher enthusiasm (Kunter et al.
2011). Frenzel et al. (2011) found a positive correlation between discipline in the
classroom and teacher enjoyment, whilst the correlation was negative for anger (Sutton
2007) and anxiety. The same correlational pattern occurred for student motivation, whilst
there was no significant association between student performance and teacher emotions
(Frenzel et al. 2011). This corresponds with findings of previous studies in motivation and
the TSR, indicating that student engagement was more significant for teachers’ positive
relationship with students than students’ achievement level (e.g. Juvonen 2006; Skinner
and Belmont 1993; Tal and Babad 1990).

Teacher emotions in the classroom and the quality of the interpersonal teacher-
student relationship

Based on the assumption that positive and secure relationships are of fundamental
importance for human functioning, since it reflects the “basic need to belong” (e.g.
Baumeister and Leary 1995; Cassidy and Shaver 2008; Deci and Ryan 2002), the quality
of TSR is expected to contribute to teacher emotions and satisfaction in the
G. Hagenauer et al.

job. Whilst the empirical evidence on the significance of TSR for students’ learning and
achievement is extensive (for reviews, see Cornelius-White 2007; Roorda et al. 2011),
only a few studies have pointed to the relevance of TSR for teacher emotions in their
work, and these studies rely mostly on qualitative (interview) data (e.g. den Brok et al.
2013; Hargreaves 2000).
Given the significantly differing roles of students and teachers, the concepts emerging
from TSR research into students’ perspectives cannot be simply transferred to teachers.
Similarly, Urdan (2014) argued that conceptualisations, and derived methodologies for the
study of student motivation could not simply be transferred to the study of teacher
motivation (e.g. achievement goal theory). Thus, the concept of TSR from a teachers ’
perspective requires clarification.
TSR is a multidimensional construct. It is formed on different dimensions, including
interpersonal and professional (Hagenauer and Volet 2014). Hagenauer and Volet referred
to these two dimensions of TSR as “affective” and “support.” The support dimension
represents the professional relationship (e.g. students and teachers mutually contribute to a
supportive learning and teaching environment), and the affective dimension incorporates
the interpersonal or affective connection that is formed between teachers and students,
reflecting the degree of affiliation (e.g. warm, caring, trusting relationships; Newberry and
Davis 2008). In the present study, the focus is placed on the latter and its significance for
teacher emotions. Similarly to that of den Brok et al. (2013), the term “interpersonal TSR”
is used in this study to distinguish it clearly from the professional TSR. In attachment
theory approaches, the interpersonal dimension of TSR is frequently coined as “closeness”
(e.g. Pianta 2001; Bergin and Bergin 2009). As Riley (2009, 2011) observed, the
interpersonal TSR can be considered as an “attachment dyad,” acknowledging that teachers
are not only caregivers but also care-seekers in the TSR. The research of Hargreaves
(2000) showed that the interpersonal TSR frequently evoked emotions in teachers, and
that the primary school environment held higher likelihood of positive emotions as
primary education structurally allows for stronger interpersonal emotional bonds. These
stronger bonds in primary education were also revealed in the Australian study of Riley
(2009) that applied an attachment theory approach (see also Lynch and Cicchetti 1997 for
a study of students’ perspective). One reason this study focused on secondary teachers was
to explore for effects of possibly weaker bonds between students and teachers, on teacher

The present study

Given the paucity of research on the antecedents of teacher emotions, as well as on the
association between TSR and teacher-related outcome variables (Klassen et al. 2012; Spilt
et al. 2011), the current study aimed to link these two research strands by examining the
extent to which perceived student behaviour and the interpersonal TSR predict teacher
emotions during instruction. Based on the model of teacher emotions by Frenzel (2014) as
well as on the more general notion that the quality of relationships is fundamental for
subjective wellbeing (e.g. Baumeister and Leary 1995), we expected that goal-conducive
student behaviour as well as a positive interpersonal TSR would be related positively to
positive and negatively to negative teacher emotions.
More concretely, as displayed in Fig. 1, we hypothesized that students’ engagement in
the classroom (= motivational behaviour) and a positive interpersonal TSR (=
Teacher emotions

Fig. 1 Conceptual model tested in the present study

relational behaviour) would be positively associated with joy, and negatively with anxiety
and anger, whilst the reverse association was expected for the negative indicator “lack of
discipline in class” (= social-emotional behaviour). Self-efficacy beliefs of teachers were
treated as a control variable, as emotions are influenced by the control cognitions of the
teachers (see control-value theory, Pekrun 2006), in order to assess the adjusted
association between student behaviour variables and teacher emotions.



One hundred thirty-two teachers participated in the study (65.6 % female, n= 86; 34.4 %
male, n= 45). They all taught in high-track secondary schools in Austria. Stemming from
11 different schools, a range between 2 and 31 teachers from each school participated
voluntarily in this study. The mean age was 47.12 years (min= 25, max= 62 years). The
majority of the teachers were experienced teachers with a mean of 20.56 years of
experience in the job (min=0.5 years to max=43 years); 69 % of the participating teachers
were full-time employed. On average, the classroom size in high-track schools was about
25 students per class.
G. Hagenauer et al.


Based on the findings of Kunter et al. (2011) that teacher enthusiasm can vary significantly
between classrooms, teachers in the present study were asked to focus on one classroom when
answering the items concerning the classroom conditions. This was deemed necessary in order
to capture the possibility of high variation of the quality of teacher-student interactions and,
thus, teacher emotions between classrooms (student populations). Accordingly, teachers were
invited to nominate a classroom that was of high relevance to them (“goal relevance” of the
situation as a key appraisal evoking positive or negative emotions; Frenzel 2014; Lazarus
1999). “Relevance” was operationalized in terms of the frequency of interactions with and
responsibility for this particular group of students. The order of how the choice should be made
was suggested to the teachers ((1) class teacher, (2) major subject area, (3) minor subject area).
This led to the following classroom selection when responding to the items: 40 % of the
teachers focused on the classroom in which they were the class teacher (also called “form
teacher” in the UK or “homeroom teacher” in the USA); another 27 % referred to a class of
students where they taught one of the major subject areas (Language of Instruction,
Mathematics or First Foreign Language); and 32 % referred to classrooms in which they taught
a minor subject area (e.g. Biology, Arts), thus where they typically taught fewer lessons per
week per class. Furthermore and as requested, all teachers focused on a class of students from
lower secondary education (grades 5 to 8). Finally, 14.5 % of the teachers focused in their
responses on teaching experiences in grade 5, 23.7 % in grade 6, 29.8 % in grade 7 and 32.1 %
in grade 8.
Self-efficacy beliefs were measured on a group-unspecific level. The scales used in this
study are fully described in the next paragraph. All responses were from 1=strongly
disagree to 4=strongly agree.

Teacher emotions

Frenzel et al.’s (2010) questionnaire was used to measure teachers’ joy, anger and anxiety
during instruction. The joy scale contained four items (e.g. “I enjoy teaching these students”;
α=0.93); anger, three items (e.g. “I often feel annoyed while teaching these students”; α=0.85),
and anxiety, four items (e.g. “I feel tense and nervous while teaching these students”; α=0.81).

Teachers’ self-efficacy

We attempted to measure self-efficacy as a multidimensional construct, as suggested by several prior

studies (e.g. TSES: Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk Hoy 2001 or NTSES: Skaalvik and Skaalvik
2007). The instrument used for the present study captured three dimensions of teachers’ self-efficacy:
self-efficacy in teaching content, self-efficacy in classroom management and self-efficacy in
relationship building. The first two dimensions were measured using scales that combined items
from the German scale on teachers’ self-efficacy developed by Jerusalem et al. (2009) as well as
items of the internationally well-known scale of Woolfolk and Hoy (1990). The scale measuring self-
efficacy in teaching content contained four items (α=0.72; e.g. “I am confident that my teaching style
is effective and that students learn a lot in my class”) and the scale measuring self-efficacy in
classroom management, three items (α=0.86; e.g., “If a student becomes disruptive and noisy in my
class, I feel assured that I know some techniques to redirect him/her quickly”). In contrast, the scale
to measure self-efficacy in relationship building was newly developed for the present study, as this
dimension has not been treated as independent in prior research. This original scale contained five
items (α=0.84; e.g. “It is easy for me to connect
Teacher emotions

well with my students”; “Even if my students behave reserved, I am able to shape positive
relationships with them”). Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with principal component analysis
and varimax rotation with Kaiser normalization confirmed the proposed three-factor structure
(relationship building, teaching, classroom management) accounting for 65 % of explained
variance, in total. Items’ factor loadings and commonalities were satisfactory.

Teachers’ perception of student behaviour

As aforementioned, student behaviour was differentiated regarding its motivational, social-

emotional and relational aspect. A “closeness” scale, adapted from Ang (2005) and Pianta
(2001), measured students’ relational behaviour reflecting the interpersonal TSR. Recently,
Klassen et al. (2013) have developed a similar scale called “social engagement,” a sub-scale of
the “Engaged Teacher Scale.” However, whilst the scale of Klassen et al. focuses on teacher
behaviour that contributes to establish a positive interpersonal TSR (= energy that is invested in
establishing relationships; e.g. “In class, I am empathic towards my students”), the scale in our
study measures the outcome, namely the quality of the perceived TSR.
Students’ motivational behaviour was assessed by the scale “students’ engagement in the
classroom” (SARAC; adapted from Wellborn and Connell n.d.) and students’ socio-emotional
behaviour by the scale “lack of discipline in class” (adapted from Baumert et al. 2008).
Altogether, there were 15 items: five measuring the latent construct of closeness (e.g. “I don’t feel
connected to the students in this class”; reverse coded; “I like the students in this class”), six
addressing students’ engagement in the classroom (e.g. “In this class, the students work as hard as
they can”) and four assessing lack of discipline in class (e.g. “In this class, students chat a lot”).
EFA with principal component analysis and varimax rotation with Kaiser normalization
were applied to test for the factor structure. The proposed three-factor solution could be
confirmed accounting for 70 % of explained variance, in total. All items’ factor loadings
were above 0.68 and loaded distinctly on one single factor (see Table 1).

Table 1 Factor loadings resulting Factor 1: student Factor 2: Factor 3: lack

from EFA
engagement closeness of discipline
Eng1 0.83 0.31 −0.05
Eng2 0.80 0.24 −0.14.
Eng3 0.77 0.14 −0.23
Eng4 0.71 0.29 −0.32
Eng5 0.69 0.30 −0.23
Eng6 0.69 0.25 −0.29
Clos1 0.16 0.84 −0.11
Clos2 0.20 0.72 −0.33
Clos3 0.39 0.71 −0.26
Clos4 0.37 0.70 −0.21
Clos5 0.41 0.68 −0.23
L_dis1 −0.23 −0.23 0.81
L_dis2 −0.12 −0.24 0.80
L_dis3 −0.29 −0.27 0.80
L_dis4 −0.22 −0.11 0.78
G. Hagenauer et al.
Table 2 Model comparison
3-factor model 1-factor model 2-factor model
resulting from CFA
2 134.528 (87) 384.33 (90) 315.36 (89)
χ (df)
2 1.55 4.27 3.54
χ /df
CFI 0.96 0.76 0.81
TLI 0.95 0.72 0.78
RMSEA 0.06 0.16 0.14
SRMR 0.05 0.09 0.09

In order to empirically test the factor structure of the model of Frenzel ( 2014), a
confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted with the software Mplus (Muthén and
Muthén 1998–2012). A three-factor model was compared to a one-factor and a two-factor
model. The one-factor model tested the one-dimensional way of assessing student
behaviour (= one general factor), whilst the two-factor model explored wheth-er it would
be sensible to combine the indicators of student engagement and lack of discipline into
one single dimension, whilst keeping closeness as a distinct indicator. The three-factor
model was the conceptually derived model. As shown in Table 2, the three-factor solution
presented the best fit, which supported the theoretically based model. This model is
displayed in Fig. 1. Reliability analysis also revealed satisfac-tory internal consistencies
for the derived three factors (student engagement, α= 0.91; lack of discipline, α= 0.88;
closeness, α= 0.87). Thus, the three-factor model of TSR was used for data analysis (Fig.

Fig. 2 Three-factor model—results of CFA

Teacher emotions


Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations

Descriptive statistics for all variables are presented in Table 3. In terms of emotions, the
mean was highest for joy, followed by anger and anxiety. There were strong
intercorrelations between teacher emotions and factors of student behaviour in the
classroom, whilst the correlations were lower with self-efficacy beliefs. As expected, joy
correlated negatively with anger and anxiety, whilst it correlated positively with student
engagement and closeness and negatively with lack of discipline in the classroom. An
independent t test showed no significant difference between male and female teachers in
their emotional experiences (joy: t(129)=−0.42, p=0.67; anxiety: t(129) =0.34, p= 0.73;
anger: t(129)=−0.29, p= 0.76). Correlations between teachers’ years of teaching
experience and emotions also resulted in non-significant results (p>0.05).

We also tested for mean differences between the three groups (homeroom teacher,
teacher of a major subject area and teacher of a minor subject area) of teachers’
perspective, in terms of teacher emotions and student behaviour that were assessed as
classroom specific. Significant differences were found for experience of joy, closeness and
student engagement. Homeroom teachers (group 1) experienced significantly more joy (F
2, 131=6.70, p= 0.002; η =0.09; M1 = 3.46, SD1 = 0.53; M3 = 2.96, SD3 = 0.83), as well
as a greater extent of closeness to their students (F 2, 131= 7.91, p= 0.001; η =0.11; M1
=3.80, SD1 = 0.28; M3 =3.44, SD3 = 0.60) and also reported more student engagement (F
2, 131 = 5.96, p = 0.003; η = 0.08; M1 = 3.18, SD1 = 0.57; M3 = 2.78,

Table 3 Intercorrelations, means and standard deviations


Joy – −0.65*** −0.71*** 0.32*** 0.43*** 0.33*** 0.72*** −0.61*** 0.80***
Anxiety – 0.67*** −0.34*** −0.28** −0.40*** −0.54*** 0.58*** −0.64***
Anger – −0.20* −0.19* −0.23** −0.61*** 0.74*** −0.65***
SE_RB – 0.56*** 0.58*** 0.22* −0.11 0.28***
SE_ET – 0.56*** 0.27** −0.19* 0.21*
SE_CM – 0.28** −0.31*** 0.28**
ENG – −0.51*** 0.69***
L_DIS – −0.56***
M 3.21 1.44 1.95 3.27 3.13 3.12 2.94 2.42 3.59
SD 0.71 0.62 0.81 0.49 0.42 0.62 0.66 0.85 0.52

Scale min=1, max=4

SE_RB self-efficacy in relationship building, SE_ET self-efficacy in effective teaching of content, SE_CM self-
efficacy in classroom management, ENG student engagement, L_DIS lack of discipline in class, CLOS closeness
***p<0.001; **p<0.01; *p<0.05; p<0.10
G. Hagenauer et al.

SD3 =0.64) in comparison to teachers who taught minor subject areas (group 3). On a
descriptive level, homeroom teachers also scored lowest on anger, anxiety and lack of
discipline in class; however, the three groups were not significantly different in regard to
these experiences (p>0.05).

Predicting teacher emotions

In order to test the assumption that student motivational, socio-emotional and relational (TSR)
behaviour predicts teacher emotions, hierarchical regression analyses were applied for the
criterion variables of joy, anxiety and anger (see Table 4). Self-efficacy was used as a control
variable, which is displayed in model 1. Since previous studies have shown that students’
engagement or lack of engagement predicts teacher emotions (Frenzel et al. 2011), these
indicators were accounted for in model 2. Finally, model 3 also considered the interpersonal

Table 4 Results of hierarchical regression analyses predicting teacher emotions

Joy Anxiety Anger

b SE B β b SE B β b SE B β

Model 1
Constant 0.73 0.46 3.15*** 0.41 3.39*** 0.57
SE_RB 0.12 0.15 0.08 −0.20 0.13 −0.16 −0.13 0.19 −0.08
SE_ET 0.56** 0.17 0.33** −0.05 0.16 −0.03 −0.12 0.21 −0.06
SE_CM 0.11 0.12 0.10 −0.29** 0.11 −0.29** −0.20 0.15 −0.15
Model 2
Constant 0.96* 0.40 2.49*** 0.43 1.81*** 0.46
SE_RB 0.15 0.10 0.10 −0.25* 0.11 −0.19* −0.24 0.12 −0.15*
SE_ET 0.39** 0.12 0.23** 0.05 0.13 0.03 0.04 0.14 0.02
SE_CM −0.12 0.08 −0.11 −0.10 0.09 −0.10 0.15 0.10 0.11
ENG 0.54*** 0.07 0.49*** −0.26*** 0.07 −0.28** −0.37*** 0.08 −0.30***
L_DIS −0.28*** 0.05 −0.33*** 0.29*** 0.06 0.39*** 0.58*** 0.06 0.62***
Model 3
Constant −0.81* 0.40 3.53*** 0.50 2.69***
SE_RB 0.01 0.09 0.01 −0.17 0.11 −0.13 −0.17 0.12 −0.10
SE_ET 0.47*** 0.10 0.27*** 0.01 0.12 −0.01 0.01 0.13 0.01
SE_CM −0.11 0.07 −0.09 −0.11 0.09 −0.11 0.14 0.09 0.11
ENG 0.25*** 0.07 0.23*** −0.09 0.09 −0.09 −0.22* 0.09 −0.18*
L_DIS −0.15** 0.05 −0.18** 0.21*** 0.06 0.29*** 0.52*** 0.06 0.54***
CLOS 0.70*** 0.09 0.51*** −0.41*** 0.12 −0.34*** −0.35** 0.12 −0.22**
2 0.20*** 0.17*** 0.06*
R model 1
2 0.65*** 0.47*** 0.64***
R model 2
2 0.77*** 0.52*** 0.66***
R model 3
R change is highly significant (p<0.001) for all comparisons, except between steps 2 and 3 for anger
SE_RB self-efficacy in relationship building, SE_ET self-efficacy in effective teaching of content, SE_CM self-
efficacy in classroom management, ENG student engagement, L_DIS lack of discipline in class, CLOS closeness
***p<0.001; **p<0.01; *p<0.05; p<0.10
Teacher emotions

aspects of TSR—namely closeness. Closeness was entered last in the model, as this
indicator has mostly been neglected in research on teacher emotions to date. We wanted to
investigate if closeness contributed above and beyond students’ classroom engagement, to
teacher emotions (= incremental validity).
As the results show, the explained variance significantly increased from model 1 to
model 2 and further from model 2 to model 3. The strongest predictor of teachers’ joy and
anxiety was found to be closeness, whilst anger was best predicted by a lack of discipline
in class. Lack of discipline in class also emerged as a significant negative predictor of
teachers’ joy and as a significant positive predictor for anxiety. Joy was further predicted
by students’ engagement in class, as was anger (negative association). Contrary to
expectations, self-efficacy beliefs were not significantly related to anger and anxiety when
simultaneously considering the relationship variables in the model, but self-efficacy
beliefs in teaching content contributed to teachers’ accounts of joy in class.


The purpose of this study was to explore the predictors of teacher emotions in the
classroom. Particular attention was given to the role of student behaviour and to the
question of whether, and how, the interpersonal TSR—assessed as teachers’ perception of
“closeness” with their students—was related to teacher emotions during instruction.
Teacher self-efficacy beliefs and their relationship with the students’ classroom behaviour
and the interpersonal TSR were also considered.
The results of the hierarchical regression analysis confirmed that the quality of the
relationship between teachers and students was significantly related to teachers’ emotional
experiences during instruction. Closeness, reflecting the positive interpersonal relationship
between students and teachers, was particularly important for teachers’ experience of joy in the
classroom, but was also a significant predictor of teachers’ anger and anxiety. Teachers who felt
connected with their students were more likely to report joy and less frequently anxiety and
anger. In accordance with attachment theory (Cassidy and Shaver 2008), positive interpersonal
relationships reflect security and, thus, do not only play an important role for students, but
appear to function as antecedent of teachers’ emotional wellbeing as well. This is also
consistent with recent research on “teacher resilience” (Day and Gu 2014, p. 90), which
revealed that pleasant, close and warm relationships with students form an integral part of the
work context that contributes to teachers’ successful coping in the teaching profession.
Furthermore and consistent with previous research (Chang 2013; Frenzel et al. 2011;
Tsouloupas et al. 2010), students’ engagement and discipline emerged as significant predictors
of teacher joy, anxiety and anger. Teachers’ anger, in particular, was associated with students’
lack of discipline in class. As argued by Chang and Davis (2011), students’ misbehaviour in the
classroom represents a “threat to their [teachers] instructional or management goals” (p. 102),
which is strongly connected to negative emotions. Research by Liljestrom et al. ( 2007) and
Sutton (2007) has demonstrated that teachers’ anger is dominantly student directed and not self
directed. In keeping with the findings of the present research, teachers’ anger was evoked
particularly if students’ misbehaved or did not engage in learning. In the long term, frequently
occurring negative feelings of teachers can lead to “compassion fatigue,” a concept that was
introduced by Chang and Davis (2011, p. 120) and which is conceptually linked with
“depersonalization” (Durr et al. 2014; Hakanen et al. 2006). If teaching is experienced
negatively in many situations, teachers run the risk of being alienated from students, which
G. Hagenauer et al.

may decrease teaching quality, deteriorate the teacher-student relationship further and
enhance the likelihood of developing burnout symptoms.
Interestingly, and contrary to our expectations, self-efficacy beliefs predicted teachers ’ joy, but
were not found to be relevant negative predictors of teachers’ anger and anxiety, after TSR variables
were entered into the model. The general low impact of self-efficacy beliefs on teacher emotions
might be partly caused by the fact that emotions were assessed on a class-specific level, whilst self-
efficacy beliefs were measured on a class-unspecific level. Since teachers ’ self-efficacy beliefs may
also be sensitive to specific classroom experiences, future research should further explore the issue of
context sensitivity in self-efficacy beliefs by assessing them as classroom as well as subject-area
specific, similarly to emotion research (Goetz et al. 2006).
The different predictive power of self-efficacy beliefs on teacher emotions might also be
traced back to differences in the impact of classroom context on distinct teacher emotions. Joy
might be triggered directly either by the activity of teaching (“teaching is fun”) or by the
teaching content (“biology is exciting”), as found in research on teacher enthusiasm (Kunter et
al. 2011). In contrast, anger appears more dependent on the classroom context and teacher-
student interactions. This is consistent with the research of Frenzel and Goetz (2007) using
diaries, which showed that the experience of anger varied more between classrooms than joy.
Thus, anger might be a context-dependent emotion to a stronger degree (e.g. through different
levels of student misbehaviour in different classrooms) than joy, which might be more bound to
content and teacher characteristics, such as teaching enthusiasm or self-efficacy in teaching.
These findings highlight the crucial role of the context in teacher emotion, a finding that
parallels research on the domain specificity (Goetz et al. 2006) and situation specificity (Becker
et al. 2014) of students’ learning emotions. In the present study, this was addressed by
investigating class-specific emotional experiences, rather than general emotions in teaching.
In terms of the conceptual model of teacher emotions developed by Frenzel (2014), the
present study explored many of the proposed predictors. However, future studies should include
the other predictor variables addressed in the model. First, the achievement level of students
needs to be accounted for. Second, the dimension “socio-emotional behaviour of students”
should also include a measure of students’ socio-emotional behaviour directed to their
classmates. This is because it is reasonable to assume that teacher emotions are not only
affected by students’ social behaviour directed towards them (e.g. by being disciplined, polite
or showing disrespect towards the teacher), but also by the social behaviour displayed between
students (e.g. being supportive of each other or excluding classmates).
In addition, our results showed that teachers’ mean level of joy was relatively high,
whilst in comparison, anger and in particular anxiety were notably lower. This is
consistent with previous studies, which reported similar differences in positive and
negative teacher emotions (Frenzel and Goetz 2007; Keller et al. 2014). Frenzel (2014), as
well as Liljestrom et al. (2007), posited that anger might be underestimated given its
incompatibility with prevalent teaching norms (e.g. caring for students). The same may be
said about teachers’ report of anxiety. Another possible explanation is the selectivity of the
sample in the present study, which comprised a majority of experienced teachers. Ria et al.
(2003) found that experienced teachers (= more than 5 years of teaching experience) were
less emotionally challenged than beginning teachers, particularly with respect to anxiety.

Interestingly, our results also revealed that homeroom or form teachers experienced more
joy, a better interpersonal relationship to students, as well as more student engagement in the
classroom, compared to teachers who teach in minor subject areas. These findings could be
explained by the fact that homeroom or form teachers typically spend extended time with their
students, and this creates opportunities to get to know students better and develop positive
Teacher emotions

teacher-student relationships. In turn, it connects to joy experiences as already shown in

previous studies on primary school teachers (Hargreaves 2000).
The findings of the presented study should be interpreted with caution due to three
methodological limitations. First, the use of self-report questionnaires to assess teacher
emotions enhances the possibility of eliciting socially desirable responses. In relation to this,
there seems to be some inconsistency in the literature in the finding that teachers report more
positive than negative emotions but at the same time report burnout—which includes the
dimension of “emotional exhaustion”—as a frequently occurring phenomenon in the teaching
occupation (Urdan 2014, p. 240). This apparent contradiction might be traced to the two
aforementioned potential explanations, or alternatively from a methodological perspective, to
the use of self-report measures and/or to the second limitation in teacher emotion research to
date, which is the participation of selected samples of volunteers. This was also the case in our
study, which surveyed a sample of predominantly high motivated and experienced teachers,
inherently expected to display lower levels of anxiety. This issue may point to a bias in the
literature, as it is reasonable to expect that teachers who are struggling in the profession are
unlikely to volunteer their participation in research that addresses a sensitive topic that is
connected to one’s self-worth. In order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the
nature of teachers’ emotional experiences, future research will need to come up with strategies
for attracting teachers with diverse experiences. As this requires a trusting relationship between
teachers and researchers in order for teachers to feel safe participating, a mixed-methods
approach, incorporating small-scale studies and person-centred research, might be a fruitful
addition to a quantitative assessment of teacher emotions (e.g. Scott and Sutton 2009).
A third limitation pertains to the cross-sectional design of the study, which prevents
drawing any conclusions about causal relationship between the variables. As teacher
emotions are dynamically linked to the context in which they emerge, reciprocal relations
between TSR and emotions have to be assumed (Frenzel et al. 2011). The interplay of
factors could only be assessed by using longitudinal and/or experimental approaches as
well as by including situated data (e.g. observations) that allow for the study of teacher-
student interactions in real time (e.g. Nolen et al. 2014; Turner and Fulmer 2013).

Future studies should address possible interaction effects between the variables, e.g.
teachers with better interpersonal relationships with students, and with higher self-efficacy
beliefs, might appraise students’ lack of discipline as less threatening in com-parison to
their counterparts with poorer relationships with students, and lower self-efficacy (Chang
and Davis 2011). Additionally, research needs to examine how a positive interpersonal
TSR develops over time, and what teaching techniques or behaviours are conducive to this
process. Humanistic approaches to education (Rogers et al. 2014) as well as research on
emotional intelligence in the classroom (e.g. Mortiboys 2012) might provide fruitful
theoretical grounding for exploring this research question (e.g. by assessing teachers’
active listening skills or empathy; see, for example, the work on teacher engagement by
Klassen et al. (2013)).


The results of this study indicate that student behaviour, the interpersonal TSR, and teacher
emotions are strongly related. The ability to manage classrooms accordingly and to form
positive interpersonal relationships with students can thus be regarded as important factors of
teacher emotional wellbeing in the job. In turn, one can assume that teachers’ positive
G. Hagenauer et al.

emotions are likely to induce students’ positive emotions as some recent studies have
already shown (Becker et al. 2014; Frenzel et al. 2009) and referred to as “emotional
contagion” (Fischer 2007). Therefore, positive teacher emotions may not only be essential
for the wellbeing of teachers but they may also affect students’ wellbeing and, in turn,
learning in class.
These results lead to the conclusion that teachers’ ability to connect well with students can
be regarded as an important skill to target in professional development. Whilst strategies that
affect the professional aspects of the TSR (e.g. classroom management; motivating students
which affects student engagement) are already explicitly addressed in teacher competence
models, such as the one introduced by the COACTIV study of Baumert and Kunter ( 2013),
instructional strategies that aim at fostering the interpersonal TSR have been largely overlooked
in teacher education curricula. As Jennings and Greenberg (2009, p. 495) have observed, “the
current educational system appears to assume that teachers have the requisite SEC [socio-
emotional competence] to create a warm and nurturing learning environment, be emotionally
responsive to students, form supportive and collaborative relationships with difficult and
demanding parents […].” In fact, (socio)-emotional competence can be regarded as a
competence cluster that requires training just like other teacher competencies. There is
emerging evidence that TSR issues tend to evoke tensions and dilemmas accompanied by
various emotions, particularly in beginning teachers, which reflects insecurity in regard to
relationship issues (Pillen et al. 2013).
Thus, reflecting on social interaction in the classroom and its accompanied emotions
should be an important component of teacher pre- and in-service education programmes,
with a view to develop and enhance teachers’ (socio)-emotional competence (Garner 2010;
Jennings and Greenberg 2009).

Acknowledgments This research was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF): J 3164-G17.


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Teaching and Teacher Education, 35, 92–103. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2013.05.006.
Wellborn, J. G., & Connell, J. P. (n.d.). Student’s achievement-relevant actions in the classroom
(SARAC). A teacher report and a self-report measure of student engagement vs. disaffection
in school. Retrieved on 17.7.2014 from https://www.pdx.edu.
Williams-Johnson, M., Cross, D., Hong, J., Aultmann, L., Osbon, J., & Schutz, P. (2008). “There are no emotions
in math”: how teachers approach emotions in the classroom. Teachers College Record, 110, 1574–1610.
Woolfolk, A. E., & Hoy, W. K. (1990). Prospective teachers’ sense of efficacy and beliefs about control.
Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 81–91. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.1.81.
Zembylas, M. (2002). Constructing genealogies of teachers’ emotions in science teaching. Journal of
Research in Science Teaching, 39, 79–103. doi:10.1002/tea.10010.

Gerda Hagenauer, Institute of Educational Science, Department of Research on School, Learning and Instruction,
University of Bern, Fabrikstrasse 8, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland; Email: gerda.hagenauer@edu.unibe.ch

Current themes of research:

Emotions and motivation in learning and teaching at school and in higher education; teacher-student
relationship; mixed methods in educational research

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Hagenauer, G., & Volet, S. E. (2014). Student-teacher relationship at university: an important yet under-
researched field. Oxford Review of Education, 40 (3), 370–388.
Hagenauer, G., & Volet, S. E. (2014). “I don’t think I could, you know, just teach without any emotion”: Exploring
the nature and origin of university teachers’ emotions. Research Papers in Education, 29 (2), 240–262.
Hagenauer, G., Reitbauer, E., & Hascher, T. (2013). “It’s cool but challenging.” The relevance of basic need-
fulfillment for students’ school enjoyment and emotional experiences at the transition from primary to
secondary education, Orbis Scholae, 7 (2), 23–42.
Hagenauer, G., & Hascher, T. (2010). Learning enjoyment in early adolescence. Educational Research
and Evaluation, 16 (6), 495–516.

Tina Hascher, Institute of Educational Science, Department of Research on School, Learning and Instruction,
University of Bern, Fabrikstrasse 8, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland; Email: tina.hascher@edu.unibe.ch

Current themes of research:

Emotional and motivational aspects of learning and teaching; wellbeing in school; teacher education

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Hagenauer, G. & Hascher, T. (2014). Early adolescents’ enjoyment experienced in learning situations at school and
its relation to student achievement. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 2(2), 20–30.
Hascher, T. (2012). Well-being and learning in school. In N. M. Seel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Sciences
of Learning. Heidelberg: Springer.
Hascher, T. (2011). Wellbeing. In S. Järvelä (Ed.), Social and emotional aspects of learning (pp. 99–106).
Oxford: Elsevier.
Hascher, T. (2010). Learning and emotion—perspectives for theory and research. European Educational
Research Journal, 9(1), 13–28.
Teacher emotions

Hascher, T., & Hagenauer, G. (2010). Alienation from school. International Journal of Educational
Research, 49, 220–232.

Simone Volet, School of Education, Murdoch University, South Street 90, Murdoch, Perth, Australia. E-mail:

Current themes of research:

Self and social regulation of learning. Cognitive, motivational and emotional aspects of learning and teaching.
Collaborative learning processes. Cultural issues in higher education.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Khosa, D. & Volet, S. E. (2014). Cognitive activity and metacognitive regulation during collaborative learning:
Can it explain differences in conceptual understanding? Metacognition and Learning, 9 (3), 287–307.
Hagenauer, G., & Volet, S.E. (2014). Student-teacher relationship at university: An important yet under-
researched field. Oxford Review of Education, 40 (3), 370–388.
Volet, S.E. Vauras, M., Khosa, D., & Iisakala, T. (2013). Metacognitive regulation in collaborative learning:
Theoretical advances and methodological contextualizations. In S. Volet & M. Vauras (Eds). Interpersonal
regulation of learning and motivation: Methodological advances (pp. 67–101). London: Routledge.
Volet, S.E., Summers, M., & Thurman, J. (2009) High-level co-regulation in collaborative learning: How
does it emerge and how is it sustained? Learning and Instruction, 19, 128–143.
Volet, S.E., Vauras, M., & Salonen, P. (2009). Self- and social regulation in learning contexts: An
integrative perspective. Educational Psychologist, 44 (4), 215–226.